Woman misses dad’s funeral after dozens of calls to Passport Office

A woman is "heartbroken" to have missed her father's funeral after she didn't receive emergency documents from the Passport Office in time for her to fly.

Kim Hibbs was shocked to learn that her usually healthy dad, Edward Phifer, had died at home in Sparta, Tennessee, on May 19, she knew she'd have to immediately spring into action.

The American born woman had applied for a UK passport straight after passing her citizenship test in April, meaning her US travel documents had to be sent away.

Kim called the Passport Office on the day of her dad's death and, after a lengthy wait and several call transferals, was told to send proof he had lost his life so that an emergency passport could be sent out – a process the organisation offers in extreme situations.

Although no one could guarantee her when it would arrive, the Lambourn, West Berkshire woman was told it would likely be with her in a few days.

Over the following ten days Kim made dozens of calls to the Passport Office, resent the documents and drafted in her MP Laura Farris to help, but the document never arrived.

On Saturday Kim's dad was laid to rest in the US – with her daughter stuck grieving thousands of miles away.

"I am saying this with a heavy heart as my experience was heartbreaking," Kim, who stresses how proud she is to now be a British citizen, told the Mirror.

"If only it was me missing a holiday. I missed my father's funeral. I was grieving without my family. I have had no closure as of yet and no passport.

"My biggest complaint is why do they have an emergency line and it is not even being used properly?

"I'm not a person going on holiday, I wanted to grieve with my family and now they have taken seeing my dad away from me."

The Passport Office has been struggling to cope with demand in recent months, as Brits attempt to get their travel documents following coronavirus lockdowns.

People waited outside the body's office in the rain on camping chairs on Monday morning in a desperate bid to get their passports before heading abroad.

A video shows the queue at the Liverpool branch on Monday stretching along the city centre as the showers hit.

The line snaked along Old Hall Street from the corner of Brook Street, where the office is located, to the Radisson Blu Hotel.

Anticipating a long wait, some had planned ahead and brought the fold-out furniture to take the weight off their feet as they moved towards the office at a snail's pace.

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The Passport Office has been advising people to allow up to ten weeks when applying for their British passport as more than 5 million people delayed applying due to the pandemic.

It tells people not to book travel until they have a valid passport -as new passports will not have the same passport number as old ones.

A spokesperson for the Passport Office said: “We apologise for the delay in issuing Ms Hibbs’ passport. We are in contact with her and are prioritising her application.

“More broadly, our latest figures show that over 90% of applications have been completed within 6 weeks, which is well within our advertised 10 week service standard.”

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